No-one was around to pluck the hundreds of thousands of strawberries on Anthony Sarks’s pick-your-own farm, but instead of wasting the fruit he decided to make 25,000 jars of jam.

Key points:

  • Anthony Sarks has taken a “punt” and made an enormous quantity of jam to save his strawberries from going to waste
  • Jam maker Eric Robinson has put about a year’s worth of produce in jars in less than two weeks
  • Mr Sarks hopes to sell plenty of jam over the next few months

Normally, the operation at Blackmans Point on the Mid North Coast would be filled with tourists picking strawberries by the bucket, but the statewide lockdown meant not even locals could pay a visit.

“The Sydney lockdown started the eve of the school holidays in July, which knocked us,” he said.

“Then the regional lockdown started on the eve of our big strawberry flush, which is in August/September.

Hundreds of red and green strawberries hand off plants that are growing in long pipes with holes in it.

Peak harvest time is in August and September.(

Supplied: Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries

)

‘Let’s take a punt’

But this year that didn’t happen and the 140,000 strawberry plants on Mr Sarks’s farm were left bulging with fruit that could not be picked.

“If we didn’t do something it’d be down in the back paddock,” he said.

“As a farmer who puts a lot of time and effort into growing it, it’d break your heart to have to dump it.

Mr Sarks has always made use of his second-grade strawberries, giving them to a local artisan manufacturer to create, a now award-winning, strawberry jam.

“We normally make strawberry jam out of our seconds anyway and I just couldn’t [throw the crop out],” he said.

“So I said, ‘Let’s take the punt, make all this jam and worry about selling it later.'”

Jars full of jam on a conveyor belt.

Mr Sarks is confident he can sell the jam over the next few months.(

ABC Rural: Keely Johnson

)

Going HAM on jam

In 10 days, thousands of jars have been bottled, stickered and sealed.

“We’ve made about 25,000 jars of jam, which is a lot of strawberries,” Mr Sarks said.

“There’s going to be a lot of cheap strawberry jam around that’s for sure.”

While turning the strawberries into jam has saved the fruit, it has come at a cost.

“It’s a double whammy for any businessman,” Mr Sarks said. 

A lady cutting off green top on strawberry.

The calyxes have to be removed before the strawberries can be turned into jam. (

ABC Rural: Keely Johnson

)

From little things …

Eric Robinson owns The Other Chef in Port Macquarie and makes about 30 different products at his factory out of the second-grade strawberries and tomatoes supplied by Mr Sarks.

“I started in my granny flat … it was just a hobby, but I made a strawberry jam in my little 12-litre pot and my wife took it to the fine food show in Sydney,” Mr Robinson said.

The product won an award at the show, which grabbed the attention of local media.

“Anthony saw it [in the media] he gave me a call and said, ‘When are you going to make that for me?'” Mr Robinson said.

From there he started manufacturing jam regularly for Mr Sarks.

“We had to build another factory to just keep up with them,” Mr Robinson said.

Man in black top and black hat smiles in front or shelves of jars.

Mr Robinson started working with Mr Sarks about 15 years ago.(

ABC Rural: Keely Johnson

)

For the good of all

Mr Robinson says he makes about 30,000 jars of different products for Mr Sarks per year.

Compare that to making 25,000 jars of jam in less than two weeks.

“We’re only a small artisan manufacturer,” he said.

A pump is pours red liquid into a glass jar.

Each jar of jam is made up of a high volume of Mr Sarks’s strawberries. (

ABC Rural: Keely Johnson

)

Mr Robinson said having a food manufacturing hub in an area surrounded by producers was beneficial for everyone.

“Using local produce, whether it’s second-grade fruit or not, and then that being supported and purchased by the local community, is better for the planet, better for the local economy and local employment,” he said.

Farmer escapes strawberry jam by making 25,000 jars of strawberry jam
Source:
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